9 Must-Ask Questions When Checking References

Hiring the wrong person can be absolutely detrimental to the success of your practice. Whether it’s that they’re not as skilled as they initially seemed, or worse – their attitude is toxic to the team, the headache you’ll be left with is far worse than the extra time it takes to weed out the potential bad apples. One of the best ways to do this is to thoroughly check all references provided. Beyond verifying employment and the other basics, here are a few key questions that could help you make more informed hiring decisions.

How are you connected to the candidate?

Assessing the relationship between the candidate and his or her reference can help you determine their relevance as well as what direction you should go in with your line of questioning. For instance, was the person a co-worker, a former boss or is it a personal reference for character purposes? 

Can you confirm the candidate’s job title and duties?

It’s important to verify whether the candidate was being accurate in listing his or her previous job title. Beyond this, it’s also a good idea to gauge what kind of experience and responsibilities the person had while in that position. If there’s a skill in particular that you’d like the candidate to be strong in, don’t be afraid to ask about that as well.

How would you rate the candidate’s work performance?

It’s incredibly easy for a job seeker to exaggerate on their resume or cover letter, so you shouldn’t always take this at face value. When calling references, ask for their personal assessment of how well the candidate performed his or her duties. 

Was the candidate accountable for his or her actions?

The way a person handles a mistake can tell a lot about their character. When asking references about a candidate’s work ethic, it can be beneficial to specifically ask about their accountability. Furthermore, you should also ask whether or not the job seeker could be held responsible for completing tasks and meeting deadlines.

What are the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses?

This has become a dreaded question for interviewees, and in reality, you probably won’t get a truly accurate answer directly from the candidate. Instead, asking former co-workers and managers what they believe the person’s biggest strengths are, as well as areas where they could potentially improve, can provide a much more accurate picture. Again, if there’s a particular strength you’re seeking, feel free to ask about that specifically.

What was it like to work with the candidate?

This question may seem innocuous, but it can be incredibly important, particularly in terms of assessing a candidate’s cultural fit. That’s because this question helps to reveal more of a candidate’s personality and soft skills, like the ability to communicate effectively, how well he or she takes direction, whether he or she is a team player, etc. 

Why did the candidate leave?

Again, it’s easy for a job seeker to “fluff” their resume or leave out key information, so verifying this factor is essential. Not only does this question help to confirm the accuracy of the candidate’s answers, but it can also provide insight as to how long a candidate might stay with a practice. 

Would you rehire this person and why (or why not)?

Whether or not a reference would consider rehiring a candidate can be incredibly telling. In fact, if you’re short on time and can only ask a single question, it should be this one.  

Is there anything else I should know?

As a final question, you should find out if there’s any other important information the reference believes you should know about the candidate. This is also good to ask in the event that you missed anything that should have been addressed in your prior questions. For instance, if your previous questions didn’t touch on punctuality and there was an issue with this, the reference may bring it up at this point.

Hiring the right people for your team is critical to your practice’s sustainability and profitability. Good employees elevate the team and contribute to overall client satisfaction. By asking the right questions during the screening process, you can prevent bad hires and improve your chances of landing the perfect person for the job.

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